My husband wanted to go to a seder at Congregation Shalom this year, since they were offering it on the second night. Some friends also wanted to go so they put together a table of 8 for this event.
Still after all these past expereiences -- experiences that I actually talked about at this one -- still I feel like an outsider. Well, why shouldn't I feel like an outsider. I am an outsider. I am a Gentile. I didn't grow up with this vast history going back to BCE with Moses. And of course the seder tells that story marvelously. Of course the Pesach meal is really a celebration of freedom that takes place at a family meal in the home for most people. As we participated in the B's seder for years in Madison. The adults feel the necessity of teaching this ancient story to their offspring and the guest in that home feels this history strongly as well. But this Pesach seder held in the synogogue already states that most of those present are also outsiders in some way. Because they are here and not having a seder in their own home on the second night. Many Jewish families have seders both nights. These people either don't have enough family members and friends to hold one both nights, or the wife doesn't want to go to all the work of doing two nights (and it is a lot, a lot of work for the wife). There were older attendees and some handicap attendees who probably physically couldn't do the seder in their own home. There were a few couples with children there. I don't know their story. But in a way, we were all outsiders this second night.
Some years ago I felt that I understood the religion of my husband's tribe as both he and I call them. I felt the feeling of history, of exact knowledge about where your ancestors come from and who they were, going all the way back to Biblical times. I felt the sanctity of the law having been delivered to this people by their God all those eons ago and still surviving today in the 21st century. This knowledge alone without all the religious doctrine provides a strong feeling of belonging and of spiritiual connection going way back. It's something like what I felt when overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives -- human beings have been here for eons -- this glorious city has been a capitol for them for 5000 years. Similar feelings arse from wondering the ruins of Megiddo, a city that was destroyed and rebuilt at least 28 times as evidenced by the layers in the archeological digs. These humans were so resolute, so tenacious, could not be put down. Some of these feelings I envy in people of the Jewish faith. Christianity doesn't have such feelings. Indeed, Christianity has to borrow those feelings from the Old Testament, ie use the same feelings of history that the Jews use.
So here I sat at this Seder table, feeling an outsider through no fault of any of my hosts, whether close friends or other strangers in the room. I know what to do, I know the order of the seder. The word seder after all means order. I know many of the songs that are sung. I know about the 4 cups of wine and know when to raise the cups in tribute and honor. I know some of the Hebrew. And I can speak with our close friends very eruditely. I can feel warm and fuzzy and can say the correct nice thing to them. And yet, I am an outsider. In some ways I feel I am putting on an act. At some previous seders I have attended, those sitting around me didn't know I was not a Jew and because I knew so much about the ritual, I could play act. I could be a Jew for the night. I recall that feeling after the evening was over and I realized deep inside that I had playacted the whole evening. I am not a Jew and I am sitting at their table at one of their most celebrated holidays. It does put me in my place. But it also speaks to this people and their religion. No one has ever said or done anything to produce this discomfort in me. I have been accepted and treated with nothing but warmth and hospitality. That very major fact must have something to do with why the People of the Book still are a dominant force in modern society.